NASA’s second-most senior leader has called on Australia to increase its spending on high-tech space developments in a bid to counter China’s growing dominance in outer space.
Pamela Melroy, the deputy administrator of the American space agency, said a “competition for values” between a democratic, transparent Western approach and the speedy, technology-driven growth of China in space must drive the burgeoning relationship between Australia and the United States to new levels.
China’s string of “stunningly fast” developments over the past few years – including its landing on the far side of the moon in 2018, its sustained space station presence in orbit, and its rover landed on Mars in 2021 – have fuelled top American space officials’ concerns over the future of space.
“[Space] is of strategic importance to both nations,” she said in an exclusive interview with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “Something that’s very important to us is bringing the best of humanity into the solar system.”
“One of the things that would worry me about [the United States and Australia failing to develop in space work] would actually literally be falling behind in tech development. If you want to make it about a tech development race, I think if we’re not working together, we will fall behind.”
But she insisted China’s developments are simply not possible in a democratic open country.
“[China] have a very different political system where they can make a decision to put unlimited resources on something they decide without a conversation inside the country. Australia doesn’t operate like that, and neither does the United States,” she said.
“Personally, I think … what you do with your technology is just as important as the technology itself. So I’m proud that we’re going as part of a partnership, that we are equal partners with everyone who goes out to the moon with us.